Ilya Bryzgalov likely to start for Wild, Darcy Kuemper not in Chicago

By Chris Peters | Hockey Writer

Ilya Bryzgalov is likely to get the Game 1 start against the Blackhawks. (USATSI)
Ilya Bryzgalov is likely to get the Game 1 start against the Blackhawks. (USATSI)

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The Minnesota Wild's rather fluid goaltending situation all season has taken another turn ahead of the team's second-round series. According to Michael Russo of the Minneapolis Star-Tribune, Darcy Kuemper did not travel with the team to Chicago and is listed as day-to-day with an upper body injury. That means Ilya Bryzgalov is likely to start Game 1 Friday night.

The Wild have been quiet on Kuemper since he left Game 7 against the Colorado Avalanche late in the third period with an apparent injury. Bryzgalov came on in relief and made one save to earn the decision in Minnesota's overtime victory.

Josh Harding took the morning skate with the Wild in Chicago, but according to Mike Yeo, he is an “extreme longshot” to play in the series at all. That leaves journeyman backup John Curry to backup Bryzgalov.

For the Wild, this situation is far from ideal. Kuemper ended up replacing Bryzgalov a game and a half into the first-round series with Colorado after Bryzgalov gave up eight goals in under 100 minutes of game action between Games 1 and 2. He didn't return to the lineup until that fateful Game 7 and faced just one shot in just over 13 minutes between the pipes.

In 12 regular-season games, Bryzgalov posted a 7-1-3 record with the Wild, a .911 save percentage and 2.12 goals-against average. He'll face one of the league's best scoring offenses and has losing his job to a 23-year-old fresh in his memory. You never want to have to go to a guy by default, but the Wild don't have much choice.

Curry appeared in two games with the Wild this year, his first NHL action in four seasons. He went 1-0 with a .930 save percentage in 80 minutes of playing time. He has never appeared in a Stanley Cup Playoff game and has just six games of NHL experience at all.

If Harding does find a way to play, it would be interesting to see just how ready for game action he is. He has been out since December after an adjustment to his medication for his multiple sclerosis. Before taking his leave, Harding was sensational, posting a .933 save percentage, 18-7-3 record and 1.65 goals-against average. Getting him back this postseason could be a big boost if Harding is up to full speed in time.

This could be interesting for the Wild who are riding high after that thrilling series win over Colorado. They face a tall order against the defending Stanley Cup champs, but with a fluid goaltending situation, it might be even taller.

 
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